Life expectancy is largely dependent on environmental factors and lifestyle. The belief that it is dependent mainly on genetics does not hold true. While genes play a very small role in one's life expectancy, the main factors are lifestyle, healthy habits and environment. According to Luke Coutinho, Holistic Nutrition and Lifestyle – Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine, Founder of You Care, 'The secret to longevity isn't in a pill or a cream. The fountain of youth lies with you. When you understand the science behind ageing, you understand what it takes to live longer. And mind you, it isn't just adding more years to your life. It is about adding more life to your years. As per the insights shared by Luke, here are a few life changes which can help you live a longer, healthier life.
7 Lifestyle Changes That Can Help You Live Longer
1. Get Quality Sleep
Less sleep shortens the telomeres. Telomeres are structures that are found at the end of chromosomes and play a role in protecting them. Studies show a direct correlation between telomere length and life expectancy. A study published in the British Medical Journal found that getting enough sleep, between 7 to 8 hours per night, was associated with a 12% reduced risk of premature death. So getting quality sleep is a healthy habit you may need to start practising.
2. Smart Fasting
Fasting and embracing short periods of comfortable hunger help to activate the two most important genes for longevity - FoxO3 and SIRT. These genes are regulators of lifespan, inflammation, oxidative stress, cancer prevention, immunity, and age-related diseases. Science says that even a 30% reduction of our daily calorie intake is enough to promote longevity and slow ageing. You can simply reduce your portion size by 1-2 spoons.
3. Build Lean Muscle
Building lean muscle through strength training or bodyweight training can help slow down the ageing process. Exercises like squats, lunges, pushups, pullups, and yogic practices like slow Surya Namaskars with longer holds can stimulate muscle as well as the human growth hormone.
4. Limit Snacking
Constantly nibbling, snacking, and overeating sends our digestive system on overdrive. If anything is overused without giving it a proper rest it eventually wears out and it's the same with our digestive system.
Research has shown that long-term meditators have a slower process of ageing as compared to those who do not meditate at all. One mechanism by which it helps promote longevity is by managing stress levels. Higher stress levels mean more inflammation and oxidative stress which in turn means lower telomerase activity leading to shorter telomeres. Telomerase is the building block of telomeres that protect cellular DNA from ageing.
6. Foods For Longevity
Can certain foods promote longevity? While they do not work alone, some foods are associated with a better lifespan by promoting processes associated with longevity like optimum human growth hormone or GABA (supplements or crucifers, nuts, seeds, chicken, eggs, fish) levels. Foods for activating the SIRT1 gene include green tea, leafy greens, crucifers, turmeric, 85% and above dark chocolate, parsley, celery, berries, and responsibly drinking red wine and grapes. Foods for activating the FoxO3 gene include raw onion, apples, citrus fruits, berries, crucifers, green tea, and raw honey.
7. Mentally Stimulating Activities
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, playing games, juggling and learning new skills or language, can help improve cognitive function and increase lifespan.
When you tie all of these lifestyle changes together along with healthier daily habits like giving up alcohol and smoking while exercising regularly, you can increase your health span. And while it's never a guarantee that all of us will live long, it doesn't mean we stop putting in the effort.